Those who have tracked the progress of Albert “Albie” Von Schaaf these last 15 years or so know the magnitude and depth of the rock renegade’s talent. On guitar, he’s a blazing flamethrower, some unholy concoction of Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Billy Gibbons that leaves even seasoned guitar vets quaking when they happen upon him fiercely jamming at some open mic or barroom gig. What sometimes gets lost in the maelstrom is that Von Schaaf is one hell of a songwriter and lyricist as well. Hell Is Cold, the sophomore release from Albie’s power trio the Black Fuel, is a take-no-prisoners tour de force of hard-rock fury and blues-soaked pizzazz, equal parts sweat, blood, vinegar, and mojo grease. Lyrically, this is the hardscrabble world of the long freeze, rough alleys, warm drink and hot times with your mate. From the opening anthem “Blues for God’s Daughter” to the tender, Chris Whitley-esque “High Wild Flower,” all the highs and lows of upstate living are measured and drawn true to life, then sent spinning with blues, wisdom, and not just a little bit of grace. Buy this for that Guitar Hero/Rock Band-addicted kid in your life so he or she can get a taste of the real deal, a guitar maestro and his rock hounds residing right here in the little old Capital Region. Special kudos to the striking album art by local artist and musician Shawn Snow.
—Mike Hotter, Metroland Magazine